What makes a visionary? The dictionary definition of the term states, “having or showing clear ideas about what should happen or be done in the future.” That is a broad enough statement to encompass quite a few things.
The late Steve Jobs was a visionary because he imagined people doing useful and fun things with computers and electronic devices. That vision brought about the Apple Computer, the Macintosh, the iPhone, and the iPad, thus changing the way everyone plays and works. Jobs, however, took inspiration from Edwin Land, the inventor of instant photography.
The founding fathers of the United States were visionaries because they foresaw a country in which “all men were created equal” and that people would be able to determine their own political destinies and not be dependent on a king. But these men, who met in Philadelphia and made their miracle, took strength from one another and became, in many senses of the word, a band of brothers who often formed life long friendships. Adams and Jefferson, while their relationship had its ups and downs, corresponded frequently later in life and died within hours of each other 50 years to the day the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Gandhi could see an India free of British rule and, even more importantly, a country freed through non violent resistance. The thing was done after decades of struggle. Gandhi had a number of inspirations, including Leo Tolstoy with whom he corresponded.
The trick for these and countless other visionaries lies in not just imagining something that could happen or be done in the future, but also what is needed to be done to bring that about and then to do it. Otherwise the visionary is nothing more than a dreamer. And the other lesson is that everyone who is a visionary is usually inspired by others, family, friends, or some other great person.
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